If ever there was an epic display of love, honor and respect it was in the award ceremony of the 2009 Australian Open. The clip is below, and if you’re the emotional type you’ll want to watch it even if tennis is not your thing. You could feel feel a tsunami of emotion in the roaring cheers of the crowd for both players and especially between these two champions.
First up was Roger Federer as the runner-up. I was at once moved by his humility and vulnerability. His pain was on the surface for all to see, and for me it was authentic, pure and moving. This man lost something very dear to him, his dream crushed, snatched away when he was so close, and he was feeling the pain. I was moved by this completely spontaneous, unintended display of grief that was untarnished by anger, jealousy or resentment to the man who won. I was moved by Federer’s ownership of his loss and his ability to let it out, in spite of, or perhaps because of the love being projected at him by the crowd.
Then came Rafael Nadal. His humility, grace and sensitivity to the pain of his opponent was also deeply moving. The glow of his victory seemed to pale for him in comparison to the pain of the defeat he brought upon an opponent he deeply respected. He was even apologetic for defeating Federer, and his warmth, graciousness and sensitivity were expressed when he put his arm around his tearful opponent in a heartfelt gesture of support and comfort; a moment made even more poignant by the crowd’s cheering response. It was clearly an expression that despite being adversaries on the court they were brothers-in-arms when they walked off. He even helped Federer put things in perspective by saying that his dream was not over, that he will still come back to surpass Pete Sampras’ record.
I was moved to write this for several reasons:
First, not everyone feels or expresses emotion the same way and this clip shows this quite well. Witness the text insertions in the clip itself (I couldn’t find one that showed the same footage length without these insertions). Whoever posted the clip apparently thought the expressions of emotion were funny.
Witness Federer’s girlfriend who, in the same clip, sat with her hand covering her mouth and seemed caught between emotions not quite knowing where to settle. Nothing wrong, and clearly no judgment – we have no idea of knowing what was going on inside of her. It’s just an observation of how different people access and express emotions.
I myself am easily moved – I can’t even watch Lassie without crying – and I have come to look upon this ability to be easily moved, this almost hyper-sensitivity, as a gift. I could feel the emotional charge between the players and between them and the crowd. Tears came to my eyes just watching this clip, and I realize that it comes so easily because I’m present to love. It’s a sweet refreshing sadness that is an expression of the greatness and fragility of life. If you tend to be moved similarly you’ll want to watch this clip.
Second, the powerful presence of love and the sheer emotional impact of the ceremony was special. More times than not, there is jeering and booing at sporting and political events, and it’s nice to see those times where everyone can cheer with genuine heartfelt emotion for the winners and the losers. What an inspiration to see a victor make room in the spotlight of his victory to cherish and honor an opponent.
And third, the powerful example of two men who have devoted their lives to the game of tennis. Two men who are living their life as a practice through and to the game of tennis. What an inspiration they are. They are the embodiment of what it means to give your life to something, to have freedom, passion, power, and fulfillment out of freely choosing to live from their commitment to be the best. Not many of us find this level of passion in our lives and Nadal and Federer serve to remind us that we can; that we can stay true to our passion even in the face of defeat; that it’s never over – we can live on to fight another day – and that we can love, honor and respect those who make us stronger: our adversaries, … even our failures.